New Year's Resolution: Read 'Design for How People Learn'

I like to read and would generally call myself an avid reader. However there are times when I am busy with other priorities like work, family, or just plain not wanting to read. When I do resume reading, I discover books I wish I had read sooner because I realize what I had been missing. Design for How People Learn, by Julie Dirksen is one of those books.  imgres

This short blog post not a a full-on book review but a simple recommendation to read this book for anyone who designs training or eLearning. I especially write this to the person who is not an instructional designer by title but uses Mindflash to create eLearning courses as part of their regular job. Whether you are in customer service or marketing or product management or sales, if one of the things you do is create eLearning courses, you should get this book.

Here’s why.

Identify a Problem, Not Just What They Need to Know

When you are creating eLearning courses, you likely work with subject matter experts or managers who say things like, “They need to know the background of that topic, just to be familiar with it.” Vague statements like this make it difficult to create really good eLearning courses, because really good eLearning courses focus on important materials, and do not waste time on “background” information unless it is essential.

Dirksen does a nice job in chapter three describing the importance of clearly defining the problem rather than settling on, “Well, they just need to know it.” Reading her entertaining example of one of these conversations with a stakeholder makes you smile and say to yourself, “That conversation sounds familiar.” Chapter three will help you prepare for your next meeting with subject matter experts or other stakeholders at the beginning of your next eLearning project.

Chapter three alone may be worth the price of the book.

Be Prepared for Your Next Stakeholder Meeting

There are five simple, but very important questions you can ask in that next meeting which will help you drive the conversation from, “Well, they just need to know that,” to “You’re right, that is the problem we need to solve.” Your stakeholders will be impressed. And I am serious when I say that you can go into a meeting with an executive sponsor or subject matter expert and really appear to know what you are doing and instill confidence in your stakeholders that you can help them solve that problem with your eLearning course.

If you use the process and those five questions that Dirksen lays out in chapter 3, you will be well-prepared for any meeting with stakeholders in your company who ask you to create training.

Bill Cushard, authorblogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Accenture. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.

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